The decapitated head of Tutankhamun is a pitiful sight. When his tomb was discovered in 1922 by Howard Carter and his team, the world went dizzy with excitement.
Suddenly, the western world was utterly enthralled with this ‘new found’ ancient civilisation and the story of the boy who became a pharaoh captured the imagination of millions of people almost over night.
But the sad fact remains that Tutankhamun’s body was not treated especially well when it was first found.
Due to the oils and resins used during his mummification and burial, Tut’s mummy was fused to the sides of his coffin. Carter decided to move the mummy into the hot Egyptian sun to try to soften the resin. When this didn’t work, the men in charge, including Carter, cut his body out, resulting in catastrophic damage being done to his ancient body.
Even more disturbing, in order to remove his famous death mask, the boy king was separated from it by means of decapitation. This act, as destructive and disturbing as it is, meant that Tuts mask could be lifted off and analysed separately.
I find this following quote from Carter to be somewhat oxymoronic;
“I think at the moment we did not even want to break the seal [on the inner chamber of the tomb of Tutankhamun], for a feeling of intrusion had descended heavily upon us.... We felt that we were in the presence of the dead King and must do him reverence”
Carter seems to express a sense of guilt for his actions and yet the way he and his team treated Tut’s mummy displays a complete lack of ethical understanding of his remains. Valuable forensic clues and evidence may well have been lost during these initial examinations.
In the picture above, Tutankhamun’s skull is being held up by a paintbrush which is hidden with sticky tape.